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Full text of "Owindia [microform] : a true tale of the Mackenzie River Indians, North-West America"


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OWINDIA. 




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OWINDIA: 






A TRUE TALE OF THE MACKENZIE RIVER 



INDIANS, 



NORTH-WEST AMERICA. 



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TORY OF 



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WINDIA. 







PRETTY open spot on the bank of the 
Great Mackenzie River was the place where 
Owindia first saw light. One of the uni- 
versal pine forests formed the back ground, while low 
shrubs and willows, with a pleasant green carpet of 
mossy grass, were the immediate surroundings of the 
camp. 

The banks of the Mackenzie often rise to a height 
of sixty feet above the river. This was the case in 
the spot where Michel the Hunter had pitched his 
tent, or ** lodge " as it is called. A number of other 
Indians were camped near, led thither by the fish 
which is so abundant in our Northern rivers, and 
which proves a seldom failing resource when the 
moose or reindeer go off their usual track. The 



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8 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



woods also skirting the river furnish large supplies 
of rabbits, which even the Indian children are taught 
to snare. Beavers too are most numerous in this 
district, and are excellent food, while their furs are an 
important article of trade with the Hudson Bay 
Company ; bringing to the poor Indian his much 
prized luxury of tea or tobacco, a warm blanket or 
ammunition. As the Spring comes on the women of 
the camps will be busy making ** sirop " from the 
birch trees, and dressing the skins of moose or deer 
which their husbands have killed in the chase. 
There are also the canoes to be made or repaired 
for use whenever the eight months' fetters of ice 
shall give way. 

Thus we see the Indian camps offer a pleasant 
spectacle of a contented and busy people ; and if they 
lack the refinement and luxuries of more civilized 
communities, they have at all events this advantage, 
— they have never learnt to need them. 

Michel, the Indian, was a well-skilled, practised 
hunter. Given a windy day, a good depth of 
snow, and one or two moose tracks on its fair 



The story of owindia. 



surface, and there was not much chance of the noble 
beast's escape from Michel's swift tread and steady 
aim. Such is the excitement of moose-hunting, and 
such the intense acuteness of the moose-deer's sense 
of smell and hearing, that an Indian hunter will 
often strip himself of every bit of clothing, and 
creep stealthily along on his snow-shoes, lest by the 
slightest sound he should betray his presence, and 
allow his prey to escape. And Michel was as 
skilled a trapper as he was hunter ; from the plump 
little musk-rat which he caught by the river brink 
to the valuable marten, sable, beaver, otter, skunk, 
&c., &c., he knew the ways and habits of each one ; 
he would set his steel trap with as true an intuition 
as if "he had received notice of the coming of his 
prey. Many a silver fox had found himself outdone 
in sharpness and cunning by Michel ; many a lynx or 
wild cat had fought for dear life, and may-be, made 
one escape from Michel's snares, leaving perhaps one 
of its paws in token of its fierce struggle, yet had 
perished after all, being allured in some opposite 
direction by tempting bait, or irresistible scent laid 



MHI 



16 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



by the same skilful hand. In bear hunting also 
Michel was an adept, and he lacked not opportunity 
for this sport on the banks of the Mackenzie. Many 
a time would he and, perhaps, one other Indian glide 
down the river in his swift canoe, and suddenly the 
keen observant eyes would detect a bear walking 
stealthily along by the side of the stream ! In an 
instant the two men would exchange signals, paddles 
would be lifted, and, every movement stilled, the 
men slowly and *cannily* would make for shore. 
In spite of all, however. Bruin has heard them, he 
slakes his thirst no longer in the swift-running river 
nor feasts luxuriously on the berries growing by 
the shore. The woods are close at hand, and with 
a couple of huge strides he reaches them, and is 
making with increasing speed for his lair ; but Michel 
is his match for stealth and swiftness, and when one 
sense fails, another is summoned to his assistance. The 
eye can no longer see the prey, but the ear can yet 
detect here and there a broken twig revealing the 
exact track it has taken. With gun carried low, and 
treading on in breathless silence and attention, the 



fH^ STORY Of OmNDiA. 



it 



hunters follow, and soon r. shot is heard, succeeded 
by another, and then a shout which proclaims poor 
Bruin's death. Alas, that gun which has done such 
good service for his family, which was purchased by 
many a month's labour, and carefully chosen with an 
Indian's observant eye : what misery and crime was 
it not to effect even in that very spot where now the 
little group of Indians dwelt happy and peaceful, little 
dreaming of the deed of violence which would soon 
drive them panic-stricken from their homes ! 

A very marked feature in the character of the 
Indian is jealousy. How far the white man may be 
answerable, if not for the first impulse of this, at all 
events for its development, it were perhaps better not 
to inquire. The schoolboy is often first taught 
jealousy by the undisguised partiality for his more 
attractive or highly gifted companion, evinced by his 
teachers ; the Indians are at present in most respects 
but children, and they are keenly sensitive to the 
treatment they receive from those, who, in spite of 
many benefits bestowed, they cannot but look upon 
as invaders of their soil, and intruders upon some of 



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Xi 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



their prerogatives. In our Mission work we find this 
passion of jealousy often coming into play. It is most 
difficult to persuade the parents to trust us with their 
children, not because they doubt our care of them, 
but for fear of their children's affections being alien- 
ated from their own people. It is sometimes hard 
for the same reason to get the parents to bring their 
children to Holy Baptism : " You will give my boy 
another name, and he will not be *like mine' any 
more." 

And Michel the Hunter was but an average type 
of the Indian character ; of a fiery, ardent nature, 
and unschooled affections, he never forgot a wrong 
done him in early youth by a white man. His 
sweetheart was taken from him, cruelly, heartlessly, 
mercilessly, during his absence, without note or sign 
or warning, while he was working with all energy to 
make a home for the little black-eyed maiden, who 
had promised to be his bride. If Michel could but 
once have seen the betrayer to have given vent to his 
feelings of scorn, rage, and indignation ! To have 
asked him, as he longed to ask him, if this was his 



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THE STORY OF 0\V INDIA. 



13 



Christian faith, his boasted white man's creed ! To 
have asked if in those thousand miles he had 
traversed to reach the red man's home, there were 
no girls suited to his mind, save only the one be- 
trothed to Indian Michel ! He would have asked, 
too, if it were not enough to invade his country, 
build houses, plant his barley and potatoes, and lay 
claim to his moose-deer and bear, his furs and 
peltries, but he must needs touch, with profane 
hands, his home treasures, and meddle with that 
which** even an Indian" holds sacred? It might, 
perchance, have been better for Michel if he could 
have spoken out and unburdened himself of his 
deep sense of wrong and injury, which from hence- 
forth lay like a hot iron in his heart. The Italian 
proverb says, " It is better to swear than to brood ; '* 
and whether this be true or not, it is certain that 
having to swallow his resentment, and endure 
his agony in silence, embittered Michel's spirit, and 
made him the jealous, sensitive, taciturn man he 
afterwards became. And among many other con- 
sequences of his youth's tragedy was an unconquer- 



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THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



able horror of the white man ; not but that, after a 
time, he would work for a white man, and trade with 
him, so long as he need not look upon him. He 
would send even his wife (for Michel took unto him 
a wife after some years) to Fort Simpson with his 
furs to trade, rather than trust himself in the 
neighbourhood of the ** Tene Manula *' (white man). 
Once, it was said, that Michel had even so far over- 
come his repugnance as to pitch his camp in the 
neighbourhood of Fort Simpson. He was a husband 
and a father then, and there were a number of Indians 
encamped in the same locality. It might be hoped 
that under these circumstances the past would be 
forgotten, and that the man would bury his re- 
sentment, and extend a friendly hand to those, not 
a few, among the white men who wished him well ; 
but jealousy is the " rage of a man." In the middle 
of the night Michel roused his wife and little ones, 
declaring that the white man was coming to do them 
some mischief. Bearing his canoe upon his head he 
soon launched it off, and in his mad haste to be 
away he even left a number of his chattels behind. 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



15 



Only once more did Michel appear at the Fort, and 
that on a memorable occasion which neither he nor 
any who then beheld him will be likely to forget. 

It was on a dark, cold night in the winter of 1880, 

that a dog-sleigh, laden with furs for the Company, 

appeared at Fort Simpson, and having discharged his 

load at the fur store, the sleigh-driver, who was none 

oth^Y than Accomba, the wife of Indian Michel, 

proceeded to the small "Indian housv.," as it is 

called, to spend the rest of the night among her own 

people. She was a pleasing-looking young woman, 

with bright expressive eyes, and a rather melancholy 

cast of countenance. She was completely enveloped 

in a large green blanket from the folds of which 

peeped over her shoulder an infant of a few months 

old, warm and comfortable in its moss-bag. A 

blessed institution is that of the moss-bag to the 

Indian infant ; and scarcely less so to the mother 

herself. Yet, indeed, it requires no small amount of 

patience, skill, and labour before this Northern luxury 

can be made ready for its tiny occupant. Through a 

good part of the long winter nights has the mother 



MM 



i6 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



worked at the fine bead-work which must adorn the 
whole front of the moss-bag. By a strange intuitive 
skill she has traced the flowers and leaves and 
delicate little tendrils, the whole presenting a mar- 
vellously artistic appearance, both in form and in 
well-combined colours. Then must the moss be 
fetched to completely line the bag, and to form both 
bed and v/rapping for the little one. For miles into 
the woods will the Indian women hie to pick the soft 
moss which is only to be met with in certain localities. 
They will hang it out on bush and shrub to dry for 
weeks before it is wanted, and then trudge back 
again to bring it home, in cloths or blankets swung 
on their often already-burdened shoulders. Then 
comes the picking and cleaning process, and thawing 
the now frozen moss before their camp fires. Every 
leaf and twig must be removed, that nothing may 
hurt the little baby limbs. And now all is prepared ; 
the sweet downy substance is spread out as pillow 
for the baby head, and both couch and covering for 
the rest of the body. Then the bag is laced up tight, 
making its small tenant as warm and cozy as 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA, 



^1 



f 



possible ; only the little face appears — the bonnie, 
saucy Indian baby face, singularly fair for the first 
few months of life, with the black bead-like eyes, and 
soft silken hair, thick even in babyhood. 

Accomba threw off her blanket, and swinging 
round her baby, she seated herself on the floor by 
the side of the roaring fire, on which the friendly 
Indians heaped billet after billet of fine dry wood, 
till the whole room was lighted up by the bright and 
cheerful blaze. It was not long before a number of other 
Indians entered, — most unceremoniously, as Indians 
are wont to do, and seated themselves in all parts of 
the room, for they had heard the sound of sleigh bells, 
and were at once curious to know the business of the 
new arrival. A universal hand-shaking took place, 
for all were friendly, being mostly of the same tribe, 
and more or less closely all connected. Pipes were 
then lighted alike by men and women, and a kettle 
of tea was soon singing on the fire. Accomba draws 
out from the recesses of her dog sleigh one or two 
huge ribs of dried meat, black and unsavoury to 
look at, but forming very good food for all that, 

B 



i8 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



This is portioned out among the assembled com- 
pany ; a bladder of grease is added, and seized with 
avidity by one of the party ; a portion of this was 
thexi melted down and eaten with the dried meat; 
while the steaming tea, sipped out of smal^ tin cups, 
and taken without sugar or milk, was the ** loving 
cup" of that dark-visaged company. And far into 
the morning hours they sat sipping their favourite 
beverage, and discussing the last tidings from the 
woods. Every item of news is interesting, whether 
from hunter's camp, or trapper's wigwam. There 
are births, marriages, and deaths, to be pondered 
over and commented upon ; the Indian has his chief, 
to whom he owes deference and vows allegiance ; he 
has his party badge, both in religion and politics ; 
what wonder then that even the long winter night of 
the North, seemed far too short for all the important 
knotty points which had to be discussed and settled ! 
**You have had good times at the little Lake," 
said Peter, a brother of Michel's, who was deliberately 
chewing a piece of dried meat held tight between his 
teeth, while with his pocket-knife he severed its 



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>»WH<^*ttn«HW ! W g » l !>«»' s ">«1w.<'^'—« 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



19 



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connection with the piece in his hand, to the 
imminent peril of his nose. 

" I wish I were a freedman : I should soon be off 
to the Lake myself! I am sick of working for the 
Company. I did not mind it when they set me to 
haul meat from the hunters, or to trap furs for them, 
but now they make me saw wood, or help the black- 
smith at his dirty forge : what has a * Tene Jua ' to do 
with such things as these ? " 

"And I am sick of starving!" said another. 
** This is the third winter that something has failed us, 
— first the rabbits, then the fish ran short ; and now 
we hear that the deer are gone into a new track, and 
there is not a sign of one for ten miles round the 
Fort. And the meat is so low " added the last 
speaker, ** that the *big Master' says he has but fifty 
pounds of dried meat in the store, and if Indians 
don't come in by Sunday, we are to be sent off to 
hunt for ourselves and the wives and children are to 
go to Little Lake where they may live on fish." 

** We have plenty of fish, it is true," said Accomba ; 
" we dried a good number last Fall, besides having 



20 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



one net in the lake all the winter ; but I would not 
leave the Company, Peter, if I were you, — you are 
better off here, man, in spite of your * starving 
times!* You do get your game every day, come 
what may, and a taste of flour every week, and a 
little barley and potatoes. I call that living like a 
* big master.' " 

** I had rather be a free man and hunt for myself,'* 
put in another speaker ; ** the meat does not taste 
half so good when another hand than your own has 
killed it ; and as for flour and barley and potatoes, 
well, our forefathers got on well enough without 
them before the white man came into our country, 
I suppose we should learn to do without them 
again ? For my part, I like a roe cake as well as 
any white man's bread." 

** But the times are harder than they used to be 
for the Tene Jua (Indian men) in the woods, 
said Accomba with a sigh ; ** the deer and the moose 
go off the track more than they used to do ; it is 
only at Fort Rae, on the Big Lake, that meat , 
never seems to fail; for us poor Mackenzie River 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



9X 



people there is hardly a winter that we are far from 
starvation." 

** But you can always pick up something at the 
Forts :'* replied a former speaker ; ** the masters are 
not such bad men if we are really starving, and then 
there is the Mission : we are not often turned away 
from the Mission without a taste of something." 

" All very good for you," said Michel's wife ; 
** who like the white man and know how to take 
him, but my man will have nothing to say to him. 
The very sight of a pale face makes him feel bad, 
and sends him into one of his fits of rage and 
madness. Oh, it has been dreadful, dreadful," con- 
tinued the poor woman, while her voice melted into 
a truly Indian wail, "for my children I kept alive, or 
else I would have thrown myself into the river many 
a time last year." 

** Bah," said Peter, who being the brother of 
Michel, would, with true Indian pertinacity, take 
part with him whatever were his c^ences; and, 
moreover, looking with his native instinct upon 
\^Qm^n a3 the " creature *' q( society, whose duty it 






32 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



was to endure uncomplaining, whatever her masters 
laid upon her. ** Bah ; you women are always 
grumbling and bewailing yourselves ; for my part, if 
I have to starve a little, Kulu (the meat) is all the 
sweeter when it comes. I suppose Michel has killed 
enough to give you many a merry night, seated 
round the camp fire with some good fat ribs or a 
moose nose, and a fine kettle of tea ; then you wrap 
yourself in your blanket, or light your pipe and feel 
like a * big master.'" 

Peter's picture of comfort and enjoyment pleased 
the Indians, and they laughed heartily and testified 
their approval, all but poor Accomba. She hung 
her head, and sadly fondled the baby at her breast. 
** You may laugh, boys," she said at length, ** and 
you know what starving is as well as I do, though 
you are pretty well off now ; it is not for myself I 
speak, I can bear that kind of thing as well as other 
women, but it comes hard for the children. Before 
Se Tene, my man, killed his last moose, we were 
starving for nearly two moons ; a little dried fi9k\ 
^nd a rat or two, and now and then a rabbit, was aU 



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THE STORY OF 0\V INDIA. 



23 



we got : even the fish failed for some time, and there 
was hardly a duck or partridge to be seen. We had 
to eat two of the dogs at last, but, poor things, they 
had little flesh on their bones." 

" Eh ! eh ! e — h ! " exclaimed the Indians, who 
however undemonstrative under ordinary circum- 
stances, can be full of sympathy where they can 
realize the affecting points of a story. 

** And the children," asked one of the party, " I 
suppose the neighbours helped you a little with 
them ? " 

" One of my cousins took little Tetsi for a while," 
replied the poor woman, ** and did what she could 
for him, but they were all short of game as we were, 
only their men went off after the deer, and plenty 
of them got to the lakes for duck ; but Michel, — 



»» 



** Well, what did he do ? I suppose he was off 
with his gun the first of any of them ? " said Peter. 
** 111 venture there shall not be a moose or deer 
within twenty miles, but Michel the Hunter shall 
smell him out." 

** Yes, he went at last," sighed Accomba ; <* but 



«4 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



my man has had one of his ugly fits upon him for all 
the winter; he would not hunt anywhere near the 
Fort, for fear of meeting a white face ; and he 
vowed I was making friends with them, and bidding 
them welcome to the camp, and so he was afraid to 
leave it ; and then at last, when I begged him to go 
and get food for his children, he swore at me and called 
me a bad name, and took up his gun to shoot me." 

** Oh, I suppose he only said that in sport," said 
another of the party ; and yet it was plain that 
Accomba's story had produced a great sensation 
among her auditors. 

** In sport I " exclaimed Accomba, now fairly 
roused to excitement by the apparent incredulity 
of her listeners ; ** In sporty say you ? No, no, 
Michel knows well what he says, though sometimes I 
think he is hardly responsible for his actions ; but 
look you, boys, my husband vowed to shoot me 
once, and I stayed his arm and fell on my knees and 
tried to rouse him to pity ; but I will do so no more, 
and if he threatens me again I will let him accom- 
plish his fell purpose, and not a cry or sound shall 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



25 



ever escape my lips. But you, Tetsi," continued 
the poor woman, who was now fairly sobbing, ** you 
are his brother, you might speak to him and try to 
bring him to reason ; and if I die, you must take 
care of my poor children, — promise me that, Tetsi 
and Antoine, they are your own flesh and blood, do 
not let them starve. * Niotsi Cho,* the Great Spirit 
will give it you back again." 

There was a great silence among the Indians 
when Accomba had finished speaking. An Indian 
has great discernment, and not only can soon dis- 
cover where the pathos of a story lies, but he will 
read as by intuition how much of it is true or false. 
Moreover, Michel's character was well known among 
them all, and his eccentricities haeii crffcii JWjicited 
their wonder and sometimes their cehsure. Tne;^>oor 
woman's story appealed to each one of them : most 
of all did it appeal to the fc'part of Sarcelle h^r 
brother, who was another occupant of the roomtiiat 

evening. •'''•. ,.'v' 

** It is shocking, it is monstrous;* !'*6xQl^i.d;j:^*(i 'lie at 
full length. " My sister, you shall coind '^itn me, I 



26 



THE STORY OF WIND! A. 






will work for you, I will hunt for you and your 
children. Michel shall not threaten you again, he is 
a * Nakani * man ; he does not know what he says 
or what he does, he is a bad ' Nakani.' " 

** I think some one has made medicine on him," 
said another ; ** he is possessed, and will get worse 
till the spell is off him." 

This medicine making among the Northern 
Indians is one of the most firmly rooted of all their 
superstitions. The term is by no means well chosen 
or descriptive of the strange ungodly rite ; it is in 
reality a charm or spell which one man is supposed 
to lay upon another. It is employed for various 
purposes and by different means of operations. You 
will hear.'of oti*e man * making medicine' to ascer- 
tain what time th^ Company's boats may be ex- 
pected, or when certain sledges of meat may come 

to the Fort. Another man is sick and the medicine- 

* 

maa'.is summoned, and a drum is beaten during the 
iiight with solemn naonotonous * tum, tum, tum', and 
certairi"Confider,t-\al. communications take place be- 
tween the D<i>ctor and his patient, during which the 



I, 



ii 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA, 



27 



IP 



sick man is supposed to divulge every secret he may 
possess, and on the perfect sincerity of his revelation 
must depend his recovery. 

The accompaniments of this strange scene vary 
according to circumstances. In some cases a basin 
of blood of some animal is made use of; in most 
instances a knife or dagger plays an important 
part. I have seen one of these, which, by-the-by, is 
most difficult to obtain, and can only be seen by 
special favour. It is made of bone or ivory, beauti- 
fully carved and notched at the edges, with various 
dots or devices upon it, and all, both dots and notches, 
arranged in groups of sevens ! After some hours the 
spell may be supposed to work, the sick man feels 
better, the excitement of the medicine-man increases, 
all looks promising ; yet at this moment should a 
white face enter the house or tent, still more, should 
he venture to touch either doctor or patient, the 
spell would be instantly broken, and the whole pro- 
cess must be commenced anew. 

The spell has been wrought upon a poor Cree 
woman at He ia C. She is perfectly convinced 






28 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



as to who did her the injury, and also that it was her 
hands which it was intended should suffer. Ac- 
cordingly each Spring, for some years past, her hands 
are rendered powerless by a foul-looking, scaly 
eruption, which comes over them. Indians have 
been known to climb an almost inaccessible rock, 
and stripping themselves of every vestige of cloth- 
ing, to lie there without food or drink, singing and 
invoking the wonder-worker until the revelation of 
some secret root was made known, by which their 
design for good or evil might be accomplished ! 

A Cree Indian, a man of sound education, related 
once the following story : — ** I was suffering in the 
year i8 — from great distress of body, and after 
seeing a doctor and feeling no better, I began to 
think I must be the victim of some medicine-man. 
I thought over my adventures of the last year or two, 
to discover if there were any who had reason to wish 
me evil. Yes, there was one man, a Swampy Indian. 
I had quarrelled with him, and then we had had 
words; and I spoke, well, I spoke bitterly (which 
I ought not to haye done, for he was the injured 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



29 



man) and he vowed to revenge himself upon me. 
This was some years since, however, and I had 
never given him a thought since the time of our 
quarrel, but now I was certain a spell was over me, 
and he must have wrought it, — I knew of no other 
enemy, and I was determined to overcome it or die. 
So I saddled my horse and rode across country for 
thirty miles till I reached the dwelling of the 
Swampy. The man was outside, and started when 
he saw me, which convinced me more than ever that 
I was on the right scent. I put up my horse and 
followed my man into the house whither he had 
retreated ; and wasting no time, came to the point 
at once. Drawing my revolver and pointing it to 
his heart, * Villain,' I exclaimed, * you have made 
medicine on me: tell me your secret or I shall 
shoot you dead.' I never saw a more cowed and 
more wretched-looking being than my man became. 
I expected at least some resistance to my com- 
mand ; but he offered none ; for without attempting 
to stir or even look me in the face, he smiled a 
ghastly smile, and muttered, * It has done its work 



30 



TflElSTORY OF OW INDIA. 



then — well, I am glad ! Look in your horse -saddle, 
and never provoke me more.' I hesitated for a 
moment whether to loosen my hold upon the man, 
and to believe so improbable a story ; but on the 
whole I deemed it better to do so. He had fulfilled 
his threat of revenge, and had caused me months of 
suffering in body and min ^ , he knew me well enough 
to be sure that I was in earnest when I told him that 
his life would be forfeited if the spell were not 
removed. So I released my hold and quitted the 
house. On cutting open my saddle I discovered 
that the whole original lining had been removed and 
replaced by an immense number of baneful roots 
and herbs, which I burnt on the spot. How this 
evil deed had been effected I could not even 
surmise, but so it was, and from that hour I was a 
different man — my mind recovered its equilibrium, 
I was no longer affected by pain and distress of body, 
or haunted by nightly visions. Those who smile 
at the medicine-man, and are sceptical as to his 
power, may keep to their own opinions; I believe 
that the Almighty has imbued many of His creatures, 



THE STORY OF OWlNDtA. 



31 






both animate and inanimate, with a subtle power for 
good or evil, and that it is given to some men to 
evoke that power and to bring about results which 
it is impossible for the uninitiated to foresee or to 
avert!" 

But we have wandered too far from Accomba and 
her sad history. We must now transport the reader 
to that portion of the shores of the Mackenzie which 
was described at the opening of our story. The 
scene indeed should be laid a few miles lower down 
the river than that at first described, but the aspect 
and condition of things is but little altered. A 
number of camps are there, pitched within some ten, 
twenty, and thirty yards of each other. The dark 
brown, smoke-tinted leather tents or lodges, have a 
certain air of comfort and peacefulness about them, 
which is in no wise diminished by the smoke curling 
up from the aperture at the top, or the voices of 
children running in and out from the tent door. 
These are the tents of Mackenzie River Indians, 
speaking the Slave tongue, and mostly known by 
name to the Company's officers at the neighbouring 



32 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



forts or trading posts, known also to the Bishop and 
Clergy at the Mission stations, who have often 
visited these Indians and held services for them at 
their camps, or at the little English churches at Fort 
Simpson, Fort Norman, etc. etc., and those little 
dark-eyed children are, with but few exceptions, 
baptized Christians. Many of them have attended 
the Mission Schools for the few weeks in Spring or 
Fall, when their parents congregate round the forts; 
they can con over portions of their Syllabic Prayer- 
books, and find their place in the little Hymn books, 
for * O come, all ye faithful," ** Alleluia ! sing to 
Jesus;" and "Glory to thee, my God, this night,'* 
while such anthems as " I will arise," and others are 
?)c familiar to the Slave Indians as to our English 
v-^Miren. Yes, it is a Christian community we are 
1;-' - -ng at ; and yet, sad to say, it is in one of those 
homes that the dark deed was committed which left 
five little ones motherless, and spread terror and 
confusion among the whole camp. 

It was a lovely morning in May, 1880. The ice 
upon the Mackenzie River had but lately given way, 



; 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



33 



having broken up with one tremendous crash. Huge 
blocks were first hurled some distance down the 
river, then piled up one above another until they 
reached the summit of the bank fifty or sixty feet 
high, and being deposited there in huge unsightly 
masses, were left to thaw away drop by drop, a 
process which it would take some five or six weeks 
to accomplish. Some of the men had lately returned 
from a bear hunt, being, however, disappointed of 
their prey — a matter of less consideration than usual, 
for Bruin, being but lately roused from his long 
winter sleep, was in a less prime condition than he 
would be a few weeks later. Michel, the hunter, had 
one of his ** ugly fits " upon him ; — this was known 
throughout the camps. The women only shrugged 
their shoulders, and kept clear of his lodge. The 
men paid him but little attention, even when he 
skulked in for awhile after dark to smoke his pipe by 
their camp fire. But on this morning neither Michel 
nor his wife had been seen outside their camp ; only 
one or two of the children had turned out at 
a late hour and looked wistfully about, as if long- 



34 



THE STORY Oi^ OWtNDlA. 



ing for someone to give them food and other 
attention. 

Suddenly, from within the lodge a shot was heard, 
and a terrible muffled sound, which none heard 
without a shudder. Then came the shrieks of the 
terrified children, who ran out of the lodge towards 
their neighbours. By this time all the Indians were 
aware that something horrible had occurred in Michel's 
camp, and from every lodge, far and near, they hurried 
out with looks of dread and inquiry. The farthest 
lodge was not more than sixty yards from that of 
Michel, and the nearest was hardly a dozen yards 
removed, although a little further back from the edge 
of the bank. When the first man entered the lodge 
it could not have been more than a few seconds after 
the firing of the fatal shot, for Michel was still stand- 
ing, gun in hand, and his poor wife was sighing forth 
the last few breathings of her sad and troubled life. 
She had kept her word, and met her death without 
one cry or expostulation ! It might have been heard 
from far, that groan of horror and dismay which 
sprung spontaneous from the one first witnessing 



THE STORY OP OWINDIA. 



35 



the ghastly scene, and then from the whole of the 
assembled Indians. 

" Se tue ! Se tue ! " ** My sister, my sister ! " cried 
the women, as one by one they gazed upon the face 
of the departed ; then kneeling down, they took hold 
of the poor still warm hand, or raised the head to see 
if life were indeed extinct ; then as they found that 
it was truly so, there arose within that lodge the 
loud, heart -piercing Indian wail, which, once heard, 
can never be forgotten. Far, far through the tangled 
wood it spread, and across the swift river ; there is 
nothing like that wail for pathos, for strange suc- 
cesssion of unusual tones, for expression of deep 
need — of the heart-sorrow of suffering humanity ! 

In the meantime the chief actor in that sad 
tragedy had let the instrument of his cruelty fall 
from his hand ; it was immediately seized by one 
of the Indians and flung into the river. Michel 
made no resistance to this, albeit even at that 
moment it might have occurred to him that being 
deprived of his gun, he was shorn of well nigh his 
only means of subsistence. He turned to leave his 



36 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



tent, and with a scared, wild look, slowly raised 
the blanket which hung at its entrance ; but he was 
not suffered to escape so easily: the men of the 
surrounding camps were gathered close outside, and 
as with one consent, they laid hold of the miserable 
culprit and pinned him to the spot ; then ensued a 
fierce Babel of tongues, each one urging his own 
opinion as to the course of treatment befitting the 
occasion. The din of these many voices, mingled 
with the sad wail of the women in the tent, made an 
uproar and confusion which it would be hard to 
describe. It ended, however, by one of the Indians 
producing a long coil of babiche, and to this another 
added some pieces of rope, and with these they pro- 
ceeded to bind their prisoner hand and foot, and 
then again to bind him to one of the nearest trees. 
Having succeeded in doing this effectually, but one 
thought seemed to seize the whole community, — to 
flee from the spot. But one other duty remained to 
be performed, and this they now prepared to carry 
out. 
The funeral rites of the North American Indian , 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



37 



t need hardly be remarked, are of the very simplest 
description ; indeed, it is only of late years, and since 
Christianity has spread among them, that they have 
been persuaded to adopt the rites and ceremonies 
of Christian burial. Formerly, in many instances, 
the body of the deceased would be wrapped in its 
blanket, and then hoisted up on a wooden stage 
erected for the purpose ; after which the friends of 
the departed would make off with the utmost speed 
imaginable. Sometimes even this tribute to a lost 
friend would not be forthcoming ; the Indian has an 
unspeakable dread of death, and of the dead ; from 
the moment that the heart of his best beloved has 
ceased to beat, he turns from the lifeless form, nor 
cares to look upon it again. The new blanket 
which, perhaps, was only worn a day or two by the 
departed, will now, with scrupulous care, be wrapped 
around his dead body; for although he were blanket- 
less himself, no Indian could be persuaded to use 
that which had once been a dead man's property. 
Then, it may be, the corpse would be left lying 
in the leather lodge or tent, which would afterwar4§ 



I 

.1: 



38 



THE STORY OF OWirDIA. 



be closely fastened up ; and it has sometimes 
devolved upon the Missionaries to spend the night 
outside, watching the camp and keeping a fire 
burning in order to ward off dogs or wolves, which 
would otherwise undoubtedly have broken into the 
tent and made short work of the lifeless body 
deserted by all its friends and neighbours and 
dearest connexions. 

In the case of the wife of Michel, however, there 
arose a feeling among her people in the camp, 
which appeared to be unanimous, not to leave her 
poor mangled body deserted in the lodge, but at 
once to commit it to the earth. Accordingly the 
women ceased their wailing, there was a call for 
action, and each one bestirred himself with as much 
earnestness and self-restraint as possible. Two or 
three of the men started off to dig the grave (a work 
of no small labour at that time when, be it remem- 
bered, the frost was hardly out of the ground), others 
gathered round the women who were wrapping the 
deceased in her blanket, with her shawl and hand- 
kerchief, her beaded leggipgs, gnd mocgassins, 



I 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



39 



which were hunted out, one by one, and put on her 
with loving, albeit trembling hands. Then the poor 
lifeless form was lifted out of the tent, and carried 
a few yards further back from the river, to where 
the grave was being made ready. Here all was soon 
prepared ; silently, reverently the body was lowered 
into its shallow resting place ; the earth was thrown 
over it, then a young fir-tree was cut down, shorn 
of its bark, and driven upright in the ground, 
and a few streamers of coloured rag or ribbon, 
furnished by the women, tied on to the top of the 
pole. The task was ended, and the young mother 
of twenty-eight years, who awoke that morning 
in the full bloom of health and vigour, was left 
to slumber on in that long sleep, which shall be 
broken only on the morning of the Resurrection ! 

And now, indeed, there was nothing more to be 
done, they must flee from that desecrated spot as 
soon as possible. With one accord, every tent and 
lodge was taken down, bundles were packed, canoes 
were lifted into the water, and in less than two hours 
from the commencement of these operations, the 



40 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



whole work of packing and dislodging was effected, 
and six good-sized canot:;s, with three or four smaller 
ones, were bearing their freight of men, women, and 
children, to the opposite bank of the river. 

In describing the events of that morning but little 
mention has been made of Michel's children ; they 
were not, however, forgotten. As soon as the 
first, shock of the discovery was over, and the 
women had a little expended their feelings and 
emotions in the tears and wail of sorrow, they 
began to turn their attention to the motherless 
little ones. And first they gave them food, which 
would be an Indian's preliminary step under 
every emergency ; then, they folded kind motherly 
arms around them, and imprinted warm kisses 
on the terror-stricken faces ; and by all such 
fond endearments they strove to make them forget 
their sorrow : for an Indian, passive and undemon- 
strative as he may be under ordinary circumstances, 
is full of love and tenderest offices of pity when real 
occasion calls them forth. It was thus, then, that the 
children were taken and dispersed among the various 



I 

), 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



41 



'(} 1 






families in the rapid flight from their recent camping 
grounds. The canoes had started, and were being 
paddled at full speed across the river, when sud- 
denly, to the dismay and amazement of every one, 
the figure of Michel was seen standing by the river 
brink ! Had a spectre at that moment presented 
itself before them, they could hardly have been more 
astonished ; but the poor man*s actions were at all 
times strange and unaccountable ; and that he should 
have released himself in so short an interval from his 
bonds, was only consistent with the whole character 
of the man who had always proved himself equal to 
every emergency, and defied any attempt to thwart 
his designs. The language used by the miserable 
man on the present occasion was bitter and abusive ; 
it related to his children, who he said were being 
taken away that they might be delivered to the 
white man ; but his words fell idly upon the 
ears of the Indians, who only shuddered as they 
gazed upon his dark visage now distorted with 
passion ; and his whole figure, to which portions of 
the cords \yhich had bound him were still clinging, 



4a 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA, 



ft 



presenting the appearance of a man possessed, the 
veritable Nakani — (wild man of the woods,) in 
whom the Indians believe, and whom they so greatly 
dread. 

It was not until the Indians had reached the other 
side of the river, which at that part may be a mile 
and a quarter wide, that they collected together and 
became aware that one of the children was missing ! 
That this should be so, and that in their terror 
and haste to depart they had forgotten or over- 
looked the baby, still a nurseling, who must hav.. 
been crawling about outside the camp during the 
fatal tragedy of that morning, may seem strange. 
More strange still, that not one of that party should 
have thought of going back to seek her. But 
the female infant occupies an insignificant place 
among those uncivilized people : the birth of one of 
them is greeted with but a small fraction of the 
honours with which a male child would be wel- 
comed. 

And into the causes of the death of not a few of 
these girl-babies it would perhaps be painful to 



THE STORY OP OWINDIA, 



43 



. 



i' 



enquire ; but many a poor Indian mother will 
delude herself into the belief that she has done 
a merciful act when the little infant of a few hours' 
life is buried deep under the snow, the mother's sin 
undiscovered, and "my baby saved from starvation." 
And so the poor Indians of our story troubled 
themselves but little about the missing babe, and 
there was certainly a bare possibility that the father 
might come upon it and succour it — for Michel had 
always been a kind father, that he might possibly find 
and carry the child to one of the camps not far distant, 
where it would, for a time at least, be cared for. 
The camps therefore were pitched in the new 
camping ground ; the men of the party were soon off, 
laying their fish nets ; the women, gathering round 
their camp fires, renewed their wailing and lamenta- 
tions ; the little ones slept, worn out with fatigue and 
sorrow, and ere nightfall every sound was stilled. The 
stars shone out on those few clustered tents, — and on 
that solitary grave the other side of the river. The 
Aurora spanned the northern sky, and played with 
bright 9,ni flickering light, now trepiulous upon the 



44 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



blue ether, then heaving and expanding, spreading 
itself out with indescribable grace and beauty. 
Then it would seem to gather itself together, folding 
its bright rays as an angel might fold its wings : for 
a time it is motionless, but this is but the prelude 
to more wondrous movements. Soon it com- 
mences to play anew, sending its flaming streamers 
in new directions, and now contracting now ex- 
panding, filling the whole heavens with glory of an 
everchanging hue. 

But there is yet another wonder connected with 
this, which of all the phenomena of Nature, nearest 
approaches to the supernatural : it has uttered a 
sound — that beautiful sheaf of many tinted flames ! 
Once, twice, we have heard it, or if it were not thatf 
it was an angel's whisper ! In that great solitude 
there is no fear of any other sound intruding to 
deceive our ear. There is such deep silence over 
hill and dale that scarcely a leaf would dare to flutter 
unperceived, and the ear might start to catch the 
sighing of a breeze. But this faint sound, given on 
rare Qccasions by the Aurora, unlike any sound pf 



I 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



45 



g 



V 



< 



earth, yet seems in perfect keeping with the marvel- 
lous and spiritual beauty of the phenomena, and but 
increases and deepens the awe with which it must 
ever be beheld. 

But on this memorable night there was yet another 
sound, which from time to time broke upon the 
almost unearthly stillness: this was the cry of an 
infant, coming from the neighbourhood of Michel's 
camp. The little one, of whom mention has already 
been made, had, it seemed, been forgotten by all, 
or if once thought of, there was yet no effort 
made to save it from the doom which, to all appear- 
ance, now awaited it, — the Indians comforting 
themselves with the hope that the father would look 
after it, and the father supposing, not unnaturally, 
that all his children were together taken off by their 
indignant friends and relatives. And so the little 
one, who had been but a few hours previously 
nesthng in her mother's arms, spent that cold night 
of early spring unsheltered and alone on the high 
bank of the river whither she had crawled in the 
early morning hours. One could fancy its plaintive 



I 



] , 



46 



thB storv of 0W!NDIA. 



f 



cry increasingf iii vehemence as the hours wore on, 
and cold and ( •a-'stion overcame her, with a sense 
of weariness and desolation unknown, unfelt, before. 
There must have ^et. a sad feeling of wonder and 
perplexity at the unwonted silence which reigned 
around her, at the absence of all familiar sounds and 
voices. True, her father's dogs were there, faithful 
watchers through the night, who had helped to 
keep the family in food and fuel through the long 
winter months, hauling the sleighs, laden with moose 
or deer's meat ; or with good-sized fir trees, morning 
by morning, for their camp fires. Strong, faithful 
creatures they were, patient and enduring, sharing 
all the hardships and privations of the Indian, with 
a fortitude and devotion to be met with nowhere 
else. It would have been hard enough to tell when 
those four watchers of the little one had had their 
last good meal; the scraps awarded to most dogs 
seldom could be spared for them, — the very bones, 
picked bare by the hungry masters, were grudged 
them, being carefully kept, and broken and melted 
down for grease (that most necessary ingredient in 






\ 



j\ 



THE STORY OF OWWJDiA. 



47 



\J>\ 



Northern diet.) Sometimes indeed their famished 
nature would assert itself, and they would steal some- 
thing, it might be a rabbit caught in the snare near 
the camp (a most tempting bait for a hungry dog) or 
perchance a choice piece of dried fish hung high, yet 
not quite high enough to miss the spring of ** Capri " 
or " Muskimo ;" or a piece of soap lately purchased 
of the white man, or even a scrap of moose-skin 
reserved as shoe leather. All helped to assuage 
the pangs of hunger, yet these indulgences would be 
dearly purchased by the inevitable cuffs and blows 
which followed, till the poor brutes, scarred and 
bleeding, were fain to creep away and hide in some 
hole, until the imperative call or whistle made fresh 
claim for their services. 

How little do we know for whom we are pleading, 
when, morning by morning, we beseech our dear 
Lord to ** comfort and succour all them who in this 
transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, 
or any other adversity ! " And still less able are we to 
realize the counthss answers to our feeble prayers 
already winging their way to every portion of the 



48 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



inhabited globe ; o'er moor and fen, o'er lake and 
sea and prairie, in the crowded town and in the vast 
wilderness. Was it in blessed England, where the 
sun has long past the meridian ; while here in the far 
North-West, there are but the first faint tints of 
early dawn : — was it in England, or in some far 
distant isle of the sea, or on some outward bound 
ship — where the sailor finds time but for a few hurriecj 
words of daily prayer — that that heartfelt petition 
went up, offered in the Blessed Name, which won 
for the helpless infant on the river-bank the succour 
brought her ? 

A small birch-bark canoe was wending its way up 
the river on the morning following that on which 
Michel's wife had met her death. It came from 
Fort Little Rapids, and was proceeding to Fort 
Simpson, some 500 miles up the river. There were 
three men in the canoe, a Cree, or Swampy Indian, 
in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, and 
two Slaves or Etcha.-Ottine of Mackenzie River. 
They were paddling rapidly, having lately been 
ashore for breakfast, and being anxious to reach Fort 



18- 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA, 



40 



Simpson as soon as possible. La V.'s custom 
was to take the left bank of the river going up 
stream ; but on this occasion, for no particular 
reason which he could give, he agreed with his men 
to take the right side. They had not long past the 
region of the smoky banks*, when a sound was 
heard which caused the three men simultaneously to 
stop their paddling and listen. It occurred again and 
yet again, at long intervals ; one man pronounced it a 
a dog, but La V. shook his head, and declared it to be 
the cry of an infant, and that he would put ashore 
and ascertain if it were not so. Very faint was that 
cry, and waxing, even as they listened, still more feeble ; 

* " The region of the smoky banks." These fires, called 
"Boucanes" by the Canadians, occur w^^Teva) p^^'tj* of the 
Mackenzie and Athabasca district, li^. ''tile* neighboujpbppd of 
Lake la Biche, and also along the miry bank, a number of jets 
of hot steam find vent through the mud, and make the waters of 
the river bubble. Above Fort Noi^an, on the Mackenzie, m 
several spots the banks give out smoke and occasionally fl^es. 
These fires have existed for ages, ar)d are regarded with' .the 
greatest awe and superstition by the 'Wdians. A littjq Tligher 
up the river there are hot springs and' il ^mal} ^Olfetofi'a, like 
the larger one near Naples. 



« r 



♦ » 



D 



50 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



were it dog or infant, the cry was evidently from one in 
the very last stage of exhaustion. Soon, as they drew 
closer to the bank, the fir poles of the lately forsaken 
camp suggested the probability of the spot from 
whence the moans proceeded. The men drew to 
shore, and hauled up the canoe, while La V., 
whose curiosity was much excited, sprang out and 
proceeded to climb the bank. On the summit of the 
bank close to the edge lay four dogs ; or rather they 
had lain there, but they all started up, and looked 
defiance, as soon as steps were heard approaching 
thei- charge. Close within the circle they had 
formed around her, lay a little bundle of rags, wrap' 
ping the now nearly lifeless form of a thirteen 
months old clvj^d. Apparently, the moans which 
had r^ipit the ears of the men in the canoe were her 
last, for on lifting her up in his arms, La V. could 
detect no signs of li^^ For how many hours had 
she,iain there, without food or warmth, excepting 
that'>?;8forded by the ;^V>gs, who lay closely round her ? 
But tMr^, was Tjo time to speculate. Without a 
moment's' '<ie)iay the men cut down three or four 



"!HH 



THE STORY OF OWINDIA. 



51 






■ 



>') 



young fir trees, and proceeded to make a fire ; and 
La v., folding the little one in his **capot" — sat 
down and tried to bring back life and warmth into 
her. In a short time a kettle was boiling on the 
fire ; tea was made, and, with womanly tenderness, 
a few drops were administered. After a little time 
the men had the comfort of seeing a favourable 
result of their efforts. A little natural warmth re- 
turned to the poor body, some action at the heart 
was perceptible, and the dark eyes opened and 
sought — the Mother! 









That evening the three men and their small burden 
reached Fort Simpson, where the news of Michel's 
crime and the dispersion of the Indians was already 
known. There was no doubt now as to whose the 
rescued child might be, and it was touching to see 
how one and another of the Indian mothers came 
forward and offered to adopt it as her own. Yet it is 
no light charge for. an Indian to undertake to rear a 
child not her own, at so tender an age ; and it is 
especially hard in a country where milk is not to be 



52 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



procured, and where fish or rabbit soup is the only 
substitute for an infant's natural food. Minneha 
tried it, however, for a few weeks. She was cousin 
to poor Accomba, and spent whole nights in wailing 
and lamenting, saying, ** My sister ! my sir' * I 
why might I not die instead of you ? Oh, x^y 
sister, who shall mother your little ones ? Who 
shall work for them ? Who shall hunt for them, and 
bring them the young sayoni skin (sheep skin) 
from the mountains ? Who shall bring them meat 
when they ?re hungry — the fine fat ribs, the moose 
nose, or beaver tail, and the fine bladders of grease, 
which we cook with the flour from the white 
man's country? You were proud of your < tezone ' 
my sister. She had your eyes, dark as the berries 
of the sassiketoum, and they flashed fire like the 
aurora of winter nights. Your laugh was pleasant. 
Oh, my sister I like the waters dancing over the 
stones, it fell : it was good to listen to your 
words when we were partners in the days of our 
childhood. Our mothers dwelt together ; they loved 
each other with sisters* love; they dwelt together 



i 



TH^ STORY OF OWINDIA. 



5i 



ing 
•I 



i 



among their own people. Etcha-Ottin^ were they, 
the finest of all Tinne-Zua (Indian men)! You 
laughed and sang, my sister, when we played in the 
woods together ; when we cut the birch trees to 
make sirop in the spring time ; when we sewed the 
rogans of the birch barkj or plaited the quills of 
the porcupine into belts, and made our father's gun- 
cases, or our own leather dresses for the Fall. Many 
a time we went out in the canoe together ; we paddled 
among the islands when the berries were ripe ; we 
spent the night in gathering the sweet ripe fruit — 
moose-berry and moss-berry, the little eye-berry, and 
the sassiketoum. In the summer we went to the 
Forts, and pitched our camps hear the white man's 
house. We sold our furs to the * big master,' and 
he gave us blankets and dress pieces, and beads to 
make us fine leggings ; and tobacco, and tea, and 
shot, and ammunition. Then we went to the Pray- 
ing man's house, and he kept school for us every 
day, and made us read in the big books ; and told us 
of Niotsi N Dethe (Great God), and the poor, silly 
wife who listened to the bad Spirit, and stole the big 



S4 



The story of oWiNbiA. 



I 



'.'( 



berry, which God told her not to steal ; and of the 
blessed Saviour, who was so good and came down 
from Heaven to save us, because He saw we were so 
helpless ; and He loved the poor Indian as well as the 
white man, and told the praying men to come and 
seek after us, and pour water on us, and say good 
words for us. Those were good days, my sister ! 
Why did they not last ? Why did bad Michel come 
and take you away in his canoe ? So many wanted 
you; they wanted you much, and they would have 
been kind and good to you. Tene Sla asked the 
big master for you, and I think he would have got 
you, but for your mother, who said he was not a good 
hunter; and Nagaj a wanted you, and Jemmy, the 
Loucheux boy ; but your father was dead, and your 
mother said you must take a man who would hunt 
for her, and bring her meat ; and so bad Michel came 
and took you away to the Praying man and to 
Yazete Koa (the church), and you became his 
wife. For a time he was kind and good to you, my 
sister, and he loved his children, and was a fine 
hunter. Many bears did he track in the woods : he 



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THE STORY OF OWlNDIA. 



t 



55 



had a hunter's eye, and could see them from far, and 
a hunter's ear to catch the faintest sound of their 
feet. He would bring you deer's meat, killed by the 
first shot. No one could say that Michel gave his 
children meat that had run long, and was heated and 
bad for food. He would bring rats in the spring 
time. When the water spread upon the ice, by the 
water side, he would track them : fleet-footed are 
they, and glide swiftly into their hole ; but Michel 
was swifter than they. When Michel sank hooks in 
the lake, the fish came, fine trout from Bear Lake 
you have eaten ; it was hard for you to lift it, my 
sister ; its head was a meal for the little ones ; the 
best for your tezone, the best for your tezone. 
But, ah ! my sister, you have left it now. Oh ! cruel 
Michel has made his children motherless ! The baby 
looks piciful — it looks pitiful : it stretches out its 
hands for its mother's breast ; it longs to taste the 
sweet draughts of milk. Ah ! Accomba, my sister, 
my partner, why did cruel Michel come and take you 
from my side ? " 
Another cry of sorrow was heard from Sarcelle, 



s6 



THE STORY OF OWINDlA. 



I 



n 



the brother of Accomba, that same night, and on 
the day following. The poor fellow was half dis- 
tracted at the loss of his sister, more especially as 
she seemed to have anticipated her fate, and to 
have prepared her friends for it. Sarcelle's first 
impulse was to seize his gun and launch his canoe, 
and to sally forth in pursuit of Michel ; but he was a 
Christian Indian, having been baptized at the little 
English Church at Fort Simpson, and further in- 
structed at the Mission School. The conflict going 
on in his own mind between the desire to avenge 
his sister's death, and the higher impulses which 
his Christian faith suggested, were very touching. 
It ended in his throwing down his gun, and bowing 
his head on his hands while he sobbed aloud, ** My 
sister, my sister, I would fight for you; I would 
avenge your cruel death, but the Praying man says 
we must forgive as God forgives us. I throw down 
my gun ; I listen to the Good Spirit speaking to my 
heart ; but oh, it is hard, it is hard, my sister, I can 
see no light in this; I feel unmanly to let him go 
free, who shot my sister to the heart, who made her 



I 



S- 



1--T" 



mni^ 



Miiiir 



THE STORY OP OW INDIA. 



57 



I 



i 
s 



k- 



shed tears, and did not comfort her ; who made her 
the mother of his children, and left them all so pitiful, 
with the little one lying helpless upon the river side, 
and only the dogs to guard her. I feel unmanly, 
unworthy of a * Tene Jua,* but * Niotsi N Dethe' make 
it plain to me ; oh, make me see how I can be a true 
man, and yet forgive ! '* 



k1. 



It was but a few weeks after Minneha had received 
the rescued infant, and promised to be a mother to 
it, that she discovered that she had undertaken more 
than she was able to fulfil. It required no very 
searching eye to perceive that the little one was not 
thriving ; in truth, she was dwindling away day by 
day, and those who were in the habit of visiting the 
Camp gazed sadly at the little pinched face and 
shrivelled limbs, and foreboded that it would not be 
long before Michel's child rejoined its mother in the 
* silent land.* " Owindia'* was the name given by 
the Indians to their deceased sister's child ; and in 
truth, Owindia, " weeping one,** was well suited to 
the frail creature who since that terrible night was 



iiH 



5S 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



■f 



s 



continually uttering a feeble moan unlike an ordinary 
infant's cry, but which appealed to all hearts by its 
thrilling tones. 

One day a little bundle was brought to the English 
Mission House at Fort Simpson, by Sinclia, daugh- 
ter of Minneha. The following message accompanied 
the bundle, which was none other than the poor 
little Owindia, smaller and more fragile-looking than 
ever : ** I am sick ; I cannot work for the child ; you 
take her." And so it happened, that after all his 
horror of the white man, and his shrinking from 
intercourse with any of his kind, Michel should be 
destined by his own act, to have his child received 
into the white man's house, and to find there in all 
loving care and tender offices the home of which he 
had deprived her. 

Owindia still lives, and is become a strong and 
active child, full of spirit and intelligence, with all 
the marvellous powers of observation which mark 
the Indian. She was baptized by the Bishop ** Lucy 
May,'* but her name " Owindia" still clings to her, a 
fitting memorial of the sad episode in her infant life, 



< 






.HiA-il:^r,.'^n*vf>tlaamf 



mmmmmmtm 



THE STORY OP OW INDIA. 



59 



and of those long seventeen hours'^' when, forsaken by 
all her earthly friends, God sent His blessed angels 
to keep watch and ward around her, to guard her 
from perishing from the cold and hunger, from the 
attack of wild beasts, from falling down the steep 
river bank, or any other danger which threatened 
the little fragile life. Surely by His Providence was 
the timely succour brought out of its wonted course, 
and the relief administered which one half-hour later 
would in all probability have come too late ! 

Of the unhappy father of Owindia but little 
remains to be told. He wandered about the woods 
for some time after his merciless deed ; having neither 
gun, nor axe, nor fish-net, he was utterly unable to 
provide himself food. When reduced to the very 
last extremity of weakness and starvation, he yet 
contrived to fasten a few boards together and maks 
himself a raft : on this he paddled across the Mac- 

* The Indians have a wonderful knack of measuring time 
by the sun and moon — "In two moons and when the sun is 
there " (indicating a certain point in the heavens), would be an 
Indian's version of " two months hence at three o'clock 
p.m." 



6o 



THE STORY OF OW INDIA. 



m 



kenzie, and appeared one morning at Fort Simpson, 
such a miserable object that some of the Indians fled 
at the sight of him. He was put under arrest by 
he Hudson's Bay Company's officer in charge, who 
is also a magistrate ; and an indictment was made 
out against him. He was committed for trial and 
sent out by the Hudson's Bay Company's fur boat 
in the course of the summer to Prince Albert, some 
1800 miles distant, where the nearest Courts of 
Justice are held. 

But the whole business of Michel's committal was 
a farce. The Indians are as yet too ignorant and 
uncivilized to understand the nature of an oath, 
and even if they did so, there is not one man among 
them now living who could be brought to bear wit- 
ness against one of his own race and tribe. When 
last Michel was heard of, he was under nominal 
restraint, but conducting himself with propriety, and 
professing utter unconsciousness of the wild acts of 
his past life. 



C. S. B. 



.itm^m 



LONDON : 

PRINTED BY PERRY AND GARDNER, 

CURSITOR STREET, CITY.